HomeResourcesLeadershipHow Neighborhood Research Can Reveal Ways to Reach Your Community

How Neighborhood Research Can Reveal Ways to Reach Your Community


Use the 4 steps below to conduct your church's neighborhood research.

Who are the people in your neighborhood?

Your church database is an incredible tool to help you discover unmet ministry needs for the folks who live, work, and play in your community.

Maybe this isn't how you've thought of your role as the church within your community, but this might be something your community needs. And I propose this is how the Church of the future needs to operate.


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Recently, I met with the Director of a Church Planting network. We discussed how he challenges each new planter to meet 1,000 folks in the community he wants to plant in within the first year.

I loved the focused attention on getting to know and understand the community, the needs within, and the different types of people who live, work, and play within a specific area.

This exercise of informal neighborhood research allows a new church plant to establish deeper roots by building relationships with the people they invite into the community.

Make change easier: Transitioning Church Staff to a New ChMS


The goal is to understand this community and launch some targeted ministries based on unmet needs.

Remember, Jesus commanded us to:

“Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” (Matthew 12:31)

And as Bob Goff, the world's greatest love-everyone-always-advocate, said (paraphrased):

 “Are you wondering who you should love today? Walk out your front door. Look to your left, look to your right, look straight ahead. You just found three people to love today.”

And, based on our success definition, this is an effort your church is focused around.

Is there a specific community that your church wants to understand better? Follow these steps and gain insight on a geographical area you'd like to reach. 

Is there a specific community that your church wants to understand better? Use your ChMS to conduct neighborhood research and gain insight on the geographical area you'd like to reach.  Click To Tweet

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4 Initial Steps to Conducting Your Neighborhood Research

Effectively sustain online church communities by using video conferencing in creative ways.

For this post, let's focus on the people in a specific ZIP code where your church wants to better connect with and serve.

Step #1 – Conduct a Search Within Your ChMS 

  1. Open up your ChMS
  2. Go search for all the folks that live within one ZIP code
  3. Save that as a dynamic list

We like Faithlife Equip, but any ChMS should be able to pull the data you're looking for.

Step #2 – Consider Incomplete Data

Are you sure your search delivered accurate results for everybody within your community that lives within that ZIP code? Or perhaps some of those folks have moved and didn't provide your church with their new address.

Step #3 – Refine Search Results

Use these 4 steps to break down the results even more:

  1. Filter your list to display all of the males within that ZIP code. Save that dynamic list.
  2. Clear that filter.
  3. Create a new filter to show all the women within that ZIP code. Save that dynamic list.
  4. Clear that filter.
  5. Create a new filter to display “Parents of kids 18 or younger” within that ZIP code. Save that dynamic list.

OK, quick humility check:

  • Did any holes in your data cause you to miss out on the most accurate results in those last two filtered searches?
  • How might you get your data to be more accurate?

Step #4 – Go Deeper with Data

Your church database might not provide this type of information. Either you've never collected it, or you might not have the ability to.

For the targeted ZIP code:

  1. Search for local business owners. Save that list.
  2. Discover Government Officials. Save that list.
  3. Gather School District Officials for the local schools. Save that list.
  4. Research Principals at local schools. Save that list.
  5. Ask the Principals for a list of Teachers. Save that list.
  6. Get to know local First Responders. Save that list.

As you can see, you could dig much deeper to gather data around the folks within your community.

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Next Steps After Neighborhood Research

So, what do you do with all of this information?

Good question. You can do a lot with that data! But for now, we need to acknowledge that we don't know what we don't know. And what we want to learn are the actual needs are in this community so that we know:

  • What to be praying for
  • How we can best connect with the folks
  • The best way to build relationships
  • How to best come alongside them and minister to them

1. Get tactical

Now that we have all of this data, let's think of ways to leverage it to surface more information.

Consider sending surveys to ask these groups questions about their struggles and hopes for their neighborhood:

  1. Men
  2. Women
  3. Parents
  4. Business Owners
  5. Government Officials
  6. School District Officials
  7. Principals
  8. Teachers
  9. First Responders

2. Review Survey Responses

  • Through these surveys, what have you learned?
  • What trending needs have you discovered?
  • How is your church and its community uniquely positioned to rally together and love on these neighbors?
  • What can you do to bring this neighborhood together to get to know them and help them get to know each other?
  • Who will be part of your success teams?
  • How will you measure success for these new ventures?

3. Consider Hosting an Event

What if you planned a neighborhood picnic? You could create an opportunity for your entire church community to rally around loving this neighborhood.

And to stay in touch and continue the relationships, be sure to implement these 8 practical ways to use your ChMS after events for outreach follow-up.

4. Prepare the Team

Equip them with resources to help them grow and feel confident in partnering in the effort to minister to their neighbors.

  • What are you asking them to do with you?
  • Define success. What does that look like?
  • State expectations you have for the team during and after this event.
  • What questions should they be prepared to answer and ready to ask? 
  • And why are those questions important?
  • How can they report back what they learned to your staff team?
  • What next steps can they offer their neighbors who are looking for help or deeper connections?
  • Where can they turn to for support and collaboration?

Additionally, be thinking of how you can create a feedback loop:

  • What's the contact information collection method for attendees who are new to your church?
  • Communicate a follow-up plan. 
  • How can you gather feedback from your church community who are partnering with you in this effort?
  • What's the plan for reaching out to the folks in your church, Government Officials, School District Officials, Principals, Teachers, and First Responders, to thank them for their collaboration and share what you've learned?
  • How will you share the stories of ministry success back to your church community and denomination?
  • What's the plan for continuing to pray for this community based on what you've learned?
  • Based on the experiences, what 3-5 new ministry opportunities will you focus on building to meet the needs that presented themselves due to this effort?

While this isn't a complete plan, I hope it's a helpful framework for expanding your thinking and customizing it to meet your needs.

Plan, plan, plan. After completing neighborhood research, decide what to do with your newly-acquired data. Consider hosting an event based on specific needs revealed.  Click To Tweet

Advance Ministry by Leveraging Technology

This is one of the ways to advance the gospel in the 21st century: leveraging technology to conduct neighborhood research and discover unmet ministry needs in your neighborhood.

As Romans 10:14 says, ​​”How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”

My prayer for your church community is that you're able to use technology to become a partner in ministry as you look to fulfill Jesus' command to love your neighbors. Godspeed!

Next up: Explore 3 Ways Your ChMS Can Drive Ministry Results

How has your ChMS helped your ministry's outreach efforts?

Chris Davidson
Chris Davidson
Chris Davidson is Director of Growth & Engagement at Communitas Technologies, builders of the Communitas Platform for churches and faith-based organizations. Chris has served on church communication teams at three churches and held marketing and digital roles within other companies and as a consultant. He gets that we are all busier than ever and that it’s difficult to get and keep people’s attention, much less get them to engage at deeper levels in their faith. As a husband, father to two girls, and a human, he’s living proof. He aspires to offer value for just one person who can then help another person improve their life and grow in their faith and asks, is that person you?


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